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Best Practices for Protecting Researchers and Research
To support the vital progress of scientific research, as well as the health and economic well-being of the university or institution, the nation, and the global science community, each university and research institution should adopt the following plan in order to pre-empt and react to anti-research activists.
Ultimately, research institutions must make an unwavering commitment to ensuring the safety, security, and ability of researchers to pursue responsible research. When protests extend beyond constitutionally protected activities and become personally violent or intimidating, the leadership and administration are obligated to demonstrate that protection of researchers is a core responsibility and directly affects the livelihood of both the institution and the global research enterprise.
Institutions: Download the guide to best practices for protecting researchers and research (PDF)
Leadership and Administration
- Provide regular, explicit public affirmation from the institutional leadership in support of academic freedom and state the institutional commitment to ensuring the protection of those individuals exercising it. The responsibility for protecting researchers under attack lies at the highest level of the executive and academic administration. The president or chancellor will demonstrate strong interest and leadership in cases of attack and communicate that leadership is personally responsible for the safety of the researchers.
- In cases where researchers are under attack, pursue legal measures, public declarations, statements of support, provisions of accurate information to the public and other forms of sustaining moral and psychological support. Successful implementation of these actions must start at the top of the institution; administration, security personnel, and public affairs and communications departments also have important roles to play.
- When illegal activities occur, publicly support and encourage prosecution to the fullest extent of the law. Where appropriate and whenever possible, the administration and its counsel will pursue legal actions on behalf of the researcher, relieving them of the burden of seeking legal protection.
- Request formal support from the academic senate or equivalent body. Such an entity should bring forward and vote on a resolution condemning the attempt to intimidate or use violence against any member of the university or institution who is appropriately engaged in research activity and would be supplemented by an annual and explicit statement from administration endorsing the same principles.
- Assign staff to monitor security efforts, deploy campus resources as necessary, and communicate with affected researchers. Ensure that these personnel are on call at all times and have the ability to easily communicate with top administration officials. The burden of designing and executing a security plan lies with the university or institution, not the researcher.
- Develop a plan with local law enforcement. An effective, rapid, coordinated, and sustained response by local law enforcement will provide adequate physical security measures for targeted researchers on and off campus.
- Develop a formal process for responding to threats against personal and physical safety. This process will be initiated, formulated, and communicated by upper-level administration and maintained by the appropriate staff.
- Establish an organizational structure that anticipates and forestalls threats to a researcher. This will not require the investigator to initiate protective measures.
- Establish or strengthen security protocols. Immediate response services will be created or extended to better support faculty who experience harassment at their home.
- Ensure regular and effective communications between security personnel and community law enforcement to avoid gaps in protection. Researchers under personal attack should not be “outside of the jurisdiction” of law enforcement.
Public Affairs and Communications
- Actively pursue the introduction and passage of federal, state, and local legislation and regulations that would protect research. Similarly, it is in the best interest of the scientific community that research institutions oppose federal, state, and local legislative activity that would restrict responsible research.
- Urge lawmakers to ensure consistency of protective coverage across jurisdictions.Policymakers can work to standardize laws enforced by state and local governments that protect researchers.
- Proactively build relationships with reporters to convey accurate information about responsible research, as well as specific research being conducted at the facility.Communications staff will maintain a welcoming environment for media who can accurately portray animal research and its benefits.
- Regularly examine student-university organizations, in keeping with standards of protected activity. Regular examination will ensure that such organizations are not using their university “sponsorship” to interact with potentially dangerous non-university organizations advocating violence, particularly those classified by law enforcement as domestic terrorist organizations.
Talking Points to Guide Discussions of Best Practices with University Administration
- Animal models are essential tools to pursuing groundbreaking research. Animal research has led to important advances in understanding the nervous system and its disorders. Among these are the developments of a vaccine against polio; medications for the effective treatment of depression, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder; advances in the treatment of Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, sleep disorders, and hearing; and new drugs for the treatment of pain and epilepsy.
- Best Practices is designed to enhance the institution’s emergency management and preparedness plans, with the goal of better protecting employees. Best Practices strives to add protections to plans to ensure that researchers can perform their work and live in a safe environment. Gaps in protective coverage between campus and local police exist, sometimes with hazardous results.
- If the rate of attacks grows, research institutions could begin to lose talented researchers and the grants they manage. Talented researchers with novel ideas are essential to an institution’s pursuit of scientific knowledge, as well as a country’s stake in the increasingly competitive biomedical sciences fields. It is in an institution’s best interest to provide a safe and thriving research atmosphere for their researchers.
- The financial loss to institutions brought about by attacks is significant. While we do not have complete estimates for the annual cost of attacks to research institutions, it is clear that additional security personnel and/or technology are costly, not to mention the costs in terms of lost research advances. Beyond financial issues, attacks result in a high-stress atmosphere and take a serious emotional toll on employees. It’s important to remember that these attacks can often affect all staff in a department and the university community at large.